Archives for posts with tag: leadership


The majority of companies involved in the Social Web are listening to their communities, some are participating but almost no one is providing the necessary leadership to cultivate, nurture and shape the community engagement over a long period of time.

You can’t leave community leadership to community managers

A key skill companies need to develop over time is a deep comprehension and experience how to lead communities. Without this key skill, brands won’t be successful in the long term with any social strategies. Well-run companies have the skills and knowledge base to lead communities because an enterprise is an internal community with leadership. However, internal communities and corporate have explicit rules and rewards to shape the enterprise and reward behavior.

Leading an external community requires a different skill set

More importantly, social business leaders need to understand what shapes an external community culture. The main shortfall of brands engaging on the Social Web is their view of social platforms as a homogenous culture. Each platform has a different culture, different rules, different ways to engage successfully. What works on Twitter, won’t work on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+. Each social platform has unique community culture, which means in plain English: “This is how we do things here.”

Brands need to participate

You can’t understand a community culture without participating. How can you understand a baseball fan when you never went to a game and chanted for your favorite team? How can you understand Grateful Dead fans if you’ve never been to a performance? While we recommend full participation of brands in communities, we also make sure that they understand over time what drives people’s behavior in the community. This deep understanding is the difference between a brand just floating around and a brand leading the community by dipping into the cultural forces that are driving the overarching community culture.

Important pointers for community leadership

– Stories: What are the success stories being told, the myths shared and heroes being admired?

– Games: What are the game mechanics that work within the community and what games are being played?

– Motivation: What motivates the community to participate, collaborate and lead?

– Rewards: What behavior is being rewarded and punished?

Develop co-leaders

A very successful tactic to become a leader in a community is to identify and reward emerging leaders. Empowering other leaders gives a strong signal to the community about yourself: what you value and what kind of participation and engagement you’re willing to support. A pretty standard management practice: Identify and recognize leaders by supporting them.

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For more than 15 years my father and I were not on speaking terms.

I believed he was a weak person. He didn’t stand up for me when I needed him to. I had this anger and resentment in my mental baggage for more than 20 years.

When I stood at his grave, I realized that distant, somehow fuzzy memories determined my relationship with him. He made many mistakes, that’s for sure. And the memories of these mistakes determined our relationship until the end of time.

How often does that happen to you in your private life? In business?

Way, way, way too often.

You hand an employee a task, they don’t meet your objectives and you conclude: “A: I should never trust this person again. B: I shouldn’t trust anyone.” Two wrong conclusions.

Not everyone will drop the ball. And that person might over-deliver next time. As a manager/leader/mentor, your job is to create an environment where people can perform and do their best work. Share your disappointment with the person and give it another shot. Maybe your assignment was vague, your timeline adjusted to your pace – so many reasons why things can go wrong.

Think more like a parent: Stuff happens, pasta plates get dropped. Clean up the mess, let’s not do it again and move on.

My past determined the future with my father. And we had none.

Don’t make the same mistake.

BPK 30.034.758

Imagine this: You were just elected chancellor of West-Germany in 1969. You fought the evil regime of fascism all your life. You had to leave your home country, live in exile for a decade. But now it’s 1970 and you’re visiting Warsaw for the first time. Suddenly, you’re representing a country and its people that were responsible for the deaths of 6 million Polish citizens between 1939 and 1945. Most of the Holocaust killing camps were situated in Poland and almost 3 million Polish Jews were killed. After the war ended, Germans living in Poland had to leave the country and 1/4 of German territory was awarded to Poland. As you can imagine, the relationship between West-Germany and Poland was as bad as it can get.

On December 7, 1970, hours before Willy Brandt was scheduled to sign the peace treaty (Treaty of Warsaw), he laid down a wreath at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising memorial. After putting the the wreath down, he walked back a few steps and then, very surprisingly, and to all appearances spontaneously, knelt. He remained silently in that position for a short time, surrounded by a large group of dignitaries and press photographers.


He was one of the few Germans who didn’t have to kneel and express his sorrow, and acknowledge Germany’s horrific past. But he did it for all of the other Germans who should be there and didn’t kneel. Because they were too afraid, because they couldn’t, because they felt too ashamed, because they were not ashamed enough. As Brandt wrote in his memoirs: “Under the weight of recent history, I did what people do when words fail them. In this way I commemorated millions of murdered people.”

He was rewarded for this gesture and all his hard work with the Nobel Peace Prize and the admiration of a young generation. And, he almost lost his job because the opposition portrayed the symbolic action as a sign of defeatism. He barely escaped a “No Confidence Vote” by 2 votes.

Leaders do what’s right. They don’t care about personal consequences. They care about responsibility for the greater good. And they make all of us better people.

“ll of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”

John Kenneth Galbraith

Thank you, Willy Brandt. You remain my hero and continue to show us what real leadership is all about.

(Below a video about the Warsaw event. Sorry, it’s in German.)


Image: Courtesy of Coralie Bickford-Smith

I took this journey of 13 blog posts to better define the model of Human Business Design. It was necessary to walk through the ideas of systemic thinking, introduce various systems, introduce the idea of interactive management, planning for the apocalypse, pie in the sky models, gap and assets, how to develop a community enterprise based on market principles, design a multidimensional organization, stay away from quick fixes and develop leadership for organizational evolution.

The model of Human Business Design is based on above foundation and rooted in the belief that all human interactions inside and outside of your organization matter now. They way human beings are motivated to connect and realize value has fundamentally changed. We’re seeing a fundamental reset in the nature of work due to drastic changes all of us are experiencing in how people communicate, coordinate and collaborate. And the Enterprise 2.0 “movement” tries to capture this changed behavior by applying Web 2.0 principles to the “command-and-control” needs of the enterprise. In addition, we see a mere obsession with tools for tools sake without much understanding of the socio-business context. The old problem of throwing software solutions at organizational problems is just being re-invented in the social networking arena.

Instead, we need to focus our attention on the shifting nature of work itself and how enterprises need to evolve in a rapidly changing world, Organizations need to dig deeper, define new principles around which work itself can be reworked. Forward thinking companies will develop their own constitution, a bill of rights and a social contract for all stakeholders to have a common purpose everybody involved can rally around. In short: enterprises need to socialize their business.

Technology is the critical enable to implement Human Business Design within your organization but technology is not a sufficient agent for change. We have to focus our work on humans, the limitations of extrinsic motivators (external reward or punishment) and the need for intrinsic motivators (finding meaning in work):

– Developing a foundation of trust
– Motivating and educating the stakeholders to become more active participants
– Providing access to stakeholder knowledge and skills
– Facilitating individual freedom and control
– Encouraging emotional/aspirational co-creativity and participation.

    Successful evolution of the organization to a Human Business Design Enterprise requires them to find the appropriate locus of learning, between both market and non-market sources of ideas and knowledge. Most established firms are still trying to access these autonomous idea pools using industrial age logic and rational economic arguments, and, in most cases, tired and outdated marketing efforts where the emphasis is on surface-level tinkering of the customer engagement model, not a complete realignment and reorientation.

    Enterprises have to understand that each business, with money and investment in structures, is no more than its people within and its people outside (all stakeholders). Enterprises need to rely more on people and bridge their left-brain thinking demands with the desires of people to focus more on their right-brain capabilities.

    More than 10 years ago, the Cluetrain Manifesto exclaimed “Business is fundamentally human”. We need to stop treating stakeholders as “resources” and regard each stakeholders as clients with their own interests, desires and drivers.

    If you want to learn more about Human Business Design and how we can help you implementing these principles into your organization, feel free to contact me at

    And, all previous installments for this series, can be found here:

    Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12


    Development is not something that is done to an individual or group; it is something they do to themselves. It is an increase in the ability and desire to satisfy one’s needs and legitimate desires and those of others. It is a matter of learning, not earning. No one can learn for another, but one can encourage and facilitate the learning of another. Development is not a matter of how much one has, but how much one can do with whatever one has and what resources can create out of what is available.

    Organizational development requires leadership, which is primarily an aesthetic activity. One who leads development must inspire pursuit of a vision in whose production the leader had a hand. A vision is a picture of a state more desirable than the one that the organization currently is in. Leadership must also faciliate development of the strategy, tactics, and operations by whose means the vision can be pursued. Since the vision is often one of an ideal that can never be attained, though it may be approached continuously, leadership must see to it that the pursuit itself is satisfying, that it is fun as well as meaningful and valuable. Effective pursuit of an ideal requires the leader to extract the best possible effort from those who follow. In a corporation, this requires providing nothing less than a very high quality of work life.

    Part of leadership is an appropriate ethical-moral judgement process. The ideal process would encourage leaders to make decisions only by consensus of all stakeholders. And the final decision should never deprive another of the ability or opportunity to develop unless the one affected by the decision would otherwise deprive others of this ability or opportunity.

    However, the number of stakeholders of some corporate decisions runs into the millions, and there is just no way of involving all of them in every decision that affects them. For that reason, multi-national enterprises have to use representatives of various stakeholder groups. In a perfect world, any organization would designate individuals who will be responsible for identifying and evaluating the effects, if any, of current decisions on future generations’ choices and the ability and desire to make them.

    A vision that involves a radical change in the way an organization is conceptualized is a transforming vision. One who leads the pursuit of such a vision is a transformational leader. Transformations are primarily qualitative, rather than quantitative, and are large discontinuities, not merely reform or incremental improvements.

    The transformation to systemic thinking has brought with it a growing awareness of the fact that the effectiveness with which any of our daily activities (work, play, learning, inspiration) can be carried out depends on the extent to which they are integrated. Making it very apparent that a transformational leader must be able to integrate the various aspects of life in order to effectively pursue development. The transformational leader is one who can create an organization that reunifies life, who integrates work, play, learning, and inspiration.

    The transformation of an enterprise from one conceptualized as an animate system to a social system is only one kind of transformation that is possible. However, in our current environment – one characterized by an increasing rate of change; increasing complexity; and an increasing rate of production of understanding, knowledge, and information – there is no other type of transformation that can bring about the necessary focus on employees, customers, and the other corporate stakeholders. A corporation that continues to focus more on shareholder value and less on stakeholders will ultimately fail.

    In our last installment of the “Transform your business” series, we’ll talk about Human Business Design.

    Previous installations can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11.